Hooty Tea Travels – 2017 Northwest Tea Festival Seattle

Of all the public tea festivals I’ve been to, the Northwest Tea Festival is the most epic, busy, and has the most interesting of tea selections. The Northwest Tea Festival is certainly worth attending if you wanted to travel for tea. I went to both days of the tea festival!

Both days had a huge line to get in! I arrived 30-40 minutes early and I still waited 15 minutes in the Will Call line after the doors opened. That said, once I did get inside the festival was quiet, but it slowly filled up with people. I did most of my photos and checking booths out Saturday morning, then spent the rest of the time parking my owl butt at favorites, wandering around tea drunk or talking with tea friends. What I love about the Northwest Tea Festival is the variety – everyone is selling something different and the majority of the booths were local or from Oregon.

Crimson Lotus Tea was my first stop. I did an Instagram live stream on Sunday and I spent quite a bit of time at Crimson Lotus Tea. The unofficial shou winner was their 2017 Nannuo Mini Mushrooms (review coming soon!) that shou is so smooooooth yet also unique with interesting herbal notes. Glen had his amazing wooden tea table set up, sampling up various sheng region planets. I managed to try their new shou, 2017 Storm Breaker… which we renamed Storm Wrecker as it has plenty of energy to wreck people.

Also in attendance was THE MOST METAL \m/ tea pet frog.

After a few infusions of Storm Wrecker, I swore this tea pet looked like Jabba the Hutt.

Ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha. Kasu ya lee coy rah doe kankee kung.

The next really cool booth was Phoenix Tea. As always, their tea pets are unique. I should have purchased this guy, but I procrastinated and missed out.

I sampled tea from Georgia but mostly timed out to try their chocolate husk tea, which was outstanding.

I parked at Floating Leaves Tea often during the festival. Floating Leaves Tea is starting to feel like my tea home away from home as it is Seattle tea shop I visit regularly. To my surprise, Floating Leaves Tea was selling and had in the sample rotation, their 1966 Beipu Oolong. The 1966 Beipu, as well as Everyday Tea’s 2017 Hekai (which I will go into more later), was the most fun to watch people’s reaction to drinking it. The Beipu tastes old, and likely the oldest tea there.  The old oolong flavor is a huge contrast to other common samples like matcha, turmeric herbs, and cinnamon spiced teas.

Miro Tea had some cool teaware, including a good selection of tea tables. Sadly, there wasn’t too much in teaware this year other than Miro Tea, Crimson Lotus, Phoenix Tea, Teabook and a few stragglers selling the odd teapot, cup set, or matcha bowl.

I was tempted by these puer bags, but the DIYer in me said I could make it. Thinking about it, I know myself to never getting around to crafting it myself.

Pearl Soda Company, who I saw in Portland PDX Tea Fest but could not get near, was here with tea sodas! I sampled a Sarsaprilla Puer which was delicious! I was actually supposed to go back and buy a kit but I forgot!

There was a number of matcha vendors in attendance – Ito En/Matcha Love, Sugimoto America, and My Matcha Life. My favorite was My Matcha Life, which I have written about before. However, all the matchas were all good.

On the topic of matchas, Saku Tea was in the house! I enjoyed their latte mixes as they are quite delicious. They were quite popular, I actually missed their booth on Saturday as it was a wall of people.

Other cool local tea sellers I saw that I kicked myself for not visiting their retail shop was Lizzy Kate and B. Fuller’s. Lizzy Kate has a killer breakfast blend of theirs that is a mix of Indian and Chinese black teas with Taiwanese Oolong. I have no photos as I was wobbling too much and only took photos of blur and feet.

B. Fuller’s Mortar & Pestle certainly attracted a crowd with their Steampunk vibe. I love their packaging and presentation – you can’t help but look at everything and take photos.

Friday Afternoon Tea is another Seattle seller that I patiently waiting for their retail space to open. They have fun geeky teas!

I was happy to see Chariteas and try their Japanese Black Oolong. To my surprise, the Black Oolong wasn’t as horrible as other Japanese oolongs I have tried.

To my surprise, Everyday Teas was at the festival. They are based in New Jersey and I know them on the wholesaler side – the retail side of Everyday Teas was new to me. What interested me the most was the puer collection – those 100 gram cakes are the perfect way to try some decent puer and taste various regions without breaking the bank. They also had a 2017 Hekai, which is a solid tea but also in the strong bitter side – not a new puer person tea so I got to see some sunken cheek action. Ravi is also great to have tea with as he’s passionate about the puer.

On Saturday I met up with a tea friend that combined shipping with me on some teas. I ended up carrying a pair of very stinky 1995 Jinchas around in a box, leaving a trail of old tea smell behind me. I was terrible in making everyone smell my tea. Ravi was awesome enough to steep it up this delicious methol dank of a tea.

In other weird things I drank, Choice Organic Teas has some weird stuff. They are Seattle local, and not the kind of tea I drink as it is mostly very common loose leaf stuff (jasmine green, chai, and decafs), with some tags of “wellness” on it which usually scare me off.  What caught my eye and fed my sense of adventure or potential masochistic tea drinking is their new MUSHROOM teas. I tasted 3 different ones and Reishi Matcha was the best as the flavor just worked adding extra umami to the mix. It was surprisingly good for matcha and mushrooms in a tea bag.

I reviewed Bitaco Tea a while back and seen them at World Tea Expo – they are first in growing and processing tea in Colombia. I was surprised they were here in Seattle with their amazing Cococa Kisses for sample! Interestingly, DavidsTea had a small booth but showed off a small selection of teaware and samples. Rishi Tea was also in attendance but was mostly pushing herbals teas.

If you ever visit Seattle, likely you will visit Pike Place Market and see Market Spice Tea, then be directed to their famous Cinnamon Orange Tea. I didn’t look around much, mostly deal hunting for their non-tea things, but check out this giant display!

Teasopia smelled really fricking good. They were quite dangerous for my wallet.

The unique attraction of the Northwest Tea Festival is the Tea Bar. They do intense 5 minute tea tastings. Neat ones I spotted was comparing electric to charcoal roast, wild tree to old tree, and so much more. I felt I didn’t hang out there enough.

I only attended one class and it was one I did last year – Fenghuang Wulongs by Andy Buckman aka Great Horse Teas. He had amazing rock teas and I was blown away by his Jin Mu Dan and Milan Dancong. The star of the show was the 1996 Lao cha dancong.

It was clean and smooth, but the energy in it was strong enough to feel it in the fingertips. You know when you are in a good tea tasting when everyone takes a sip of tea and the room goes quiet.

I stumbled out that tea sessions completely out of my mind, drank a couple infusions of Crimson Lotus Tea’s Stormbreaker, then hit the tea bar for a 1998 sheng puer. After all those hard-hitting teas, I was not processing conversation that well, nor stringing sensical sentences.

This year was a little different as I was hosting a focused tasting class on aged white teas, which sold out both days with people lurking outside hoping there might be empty seats.

We drank White2Tea’s 2017 Turtle Dove, Chinese Tea Shop’s 2006 Shou Mei, and 2000 Fuding Baicha. Here is my expensive waste bucket. All us presenters had the same experience – we only got time to resteep maybe 2-4 times and had to pitch the leaf to move on.

I also was a panelist for the Tea Bloggers Roundtable. We had a discussion on various topics such why we write, impact on the online community, what blog posts we are proud of, what post you had to edit, and our review policies. It was an interesting selection of questions that moderator Cinnabar @ Gongfu Girl/ Phoenix Tea owner asked. We also had a diverse selection of bloggers – Hanamichi, Steph’s Cup of Tea, Oolong Owl (hoot), Tea Squirrel, and Steep Stories of the Lazy Literatus.

After Saturday there was an after party at Phoenix Teas. There is ALWAYS an afterparty, sometimes even preparties.  You certainly need that the constitution similar to the tea equivalent of being able to drink an entire pot of coffee and go to bed to survive a tea after party. I drank this:

After drinking tea non stop for 8 hours, then drinking tea again at around 8pm, I barely lasted an hour. I spent my time wobbling around Phoenix Tea – the best tea shop to be tea drunk in as you always see something new no matter how many times you’ve been there.

The longer I’ve been in the tea community, the more and more these tea festivals are more social gatherings than drinking samples and buying things. I had a blast with Lazy Literatus, Teadb, along with the bloggers I finally got to meet at the Tea Bloggers Roundtable. It was very cool to meet some of you readers too!

Oolong Owl’s 2017 Northwest Tea Festival Haul

Surprisingly, I didn’t buy that much. Since I was there for two days, I had the intention of looking at everything then going back. However, going back was never a good plan as I had so much tea I forgot about things.

Freebies

With entrance into the Northwest Tea Festival, you get a tote bag and cup. I like to bring my own cup and ended up using this as a spare cup to hold leaves during my tea tasting presentation.

Inside the bag was a schedule (that I discovered my focus tasting was missing off the schedule but seemed that didn’t affect attendance), the usual business cards/coupons, and the required Tea Time Magazine.

The World Tea Academy were giving away posters.

I got the entire lineup from Bitaco. I am looking forward to trying their 2017 teas.

The 2017 Hekai Sheng Puer from Everyday Teas.

I thought I grabbed some Choice Organic Reishi Matcha tea bags, but I couldn’t find them when I was taking haul photos. Either I misplaced them or they fell out of my bag.

Purchases

Phoenix Tea had beautiful tea leaf jewelry. They are cast from a spent sheng puer leaf! I had to have it in silver, but they also had bronze. There was also an earring option.

I needed more 2017 Nannuo Mini Shou Mushrooms from Crimson Lotus Tea.

I bought a set of tea soaps from Teasoapia. These soaps stood out to me as they have real tea in them!

I also got honey from Market Spice. I had to bribe the tea hating husband with something for my weekend long absence.

Northwest Tea Festival was awesome for 2017. I hope to be there again and you all consider visiting Seattle next year!

Material Matcha Uji MMU03 Blend & Kickstarter

Material Matcha Uji is a new matcha seller with a twist – they have handcrafted 3 different matchas, blended with various Uji varietals, which makes for different flavor profiles. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across blended matcha, but the first time to have a tea vendor go into more detail.

Since I do a lot of matcha reviews, I’ve learned matcha has many flavor profiles, yet no way to distinguish anything as no one talks varietals. I’ve had matchas that were potent, sweet, fruity, more umami, and even floral. The most information I see on matcha is the region, usually Uji. Knowing more about blends and varietals would be great for us matcha addicts that know what we like, past a good quality, well-stored matcha.

Material Matcha Uji sent me a preview of their MMU03 blend, here is the description –

MMU03
A full bodied blend of Samidori and Gokou.

The MMU03 blend was crafted as a total art piece: we crafted a combination of two of the most exclusive “shaded” tea species, both historically originating entirely from the Uji terroir. Full and velvety is what best describes the Gokou variety, however it is further enhanced by Samidori’s depth to realize a full bodied, complex, refined blend.

Flavor: Full-bodied, Powerful, Smooth

Texture: Velvety

Umami: Very Sweet Umami

For more information on the other matchas – the sharp tasting MMU01, or the smooth fruity MMU02 – check out Material Matcha’s website or Kickstarter.

Interestingly, the Material Matcha guys stone ground my matcha right before shipping it to me.  Let’s roll and try some matcha!

Matcha Powder and Preparation Method

The Material Matcha MMU03 is on the vibrant green side, which is a good sign.

I used 2 grams of matcha, whisked in 175F/80c temperature water. I used around 5oz/150ml water total.

MMU03 has a difficult time achieving foam.

I would get an okay layer of foam, but it would disappear.

I had two more sessions with the same results.

Tasting of Material Matcha’s MMU03

Usually, the foam is great towards making matcha less bitter, and it did not need the foam here. The flavor is smooth and creamy – lots of complexity and packed with flavors of chestnut, milk, with a savory umami note of fresh button mushroom and steamed rice. The aftertaste blooms and into another direction of crisp, fresh sweet grass, leaning close to spearmint, with a background of umami I tasted during the sip. The texture is fuzzy and thick like I am drinking a full-fat latte as it feels so soft, which is a fun contrast to the bright refreshing aftertaste. There is no bitterness, though there is a hint of dryness left in my mouth, which at a later session I found I could reduce by dropping the temperature a touch.

Comments

I get mean owl butt on my matcha reviews as my patience wears thin since I’ve had so many bad teas. Material Matcha’s is number 2 of mind-blowing matchas I’ve experienced. My fried chicken matcha holds #1. I love complex, contrast, the sweet and creamy notes, and I love drinking something that is thick but is still thin watery tea. Each time, I drank the entire bowl and wanted another one. The only error in MM03 matcha is not being able to get any meaningful foam. Those Material Matcha guys chose well, as I tend not to like the strong tasting matchas – on paper the MM03 was a better choice over MM01.

MM03 is kickstartering for $39USD ($53 retail) for next year, which is on the steep side but considering the handmade aspect, high quality, informational control, and includes shipping from Japan, the price checks out. Check out Material Matcha Uji’s kickstarter and fingers crossed we get more vendors talking about matcha varietals.

(matcha provided for review)

 

Chaga Chai from Boreal Wildcraft

I love my The Wall mug from Boreal Wildcraft that I bought backups. What I didn’t get to explore are Boreal Wildcraft‘s teas. Since they are based in Winnipeg, Canada, they took inspiration from the Canadian wilderness for their tea blends.

Today’s review is Boreal Wildcraft’s Chaga Chai. What is Chaga? The dozens of health fitness scammers that fill my spam with blog requests say it is magical, but all that interests me is it is a mushroom that tastes like black tea. What I like about this tea blend, in particular, is that it is wild harvested Manitoba chaga mushrooms. Why not mushrooms in my tea? As long as it tastes good of course.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

The leaves have lots of bits and bobbles of things such as orange bits, barks, and dust. The ingredient list is golden-tipped black tea, wild Canadian Chaga mushroom, cloves, cinnamon bark & leaf, orange peel, ginger, green cardamon, lemongrass, coriander seeds, black pepper, and nutmeg. The scent of Chaga Chai is super strong spicy chai, enough to probably burn your eyes as well as make good spiced cookies.

I used 4 grams of leaf, steeped at 200F/93c for 5 minutes. To be a completionist, I even used my Boreal Wildcraft The Wall mug.

Tasting of Boreal Wildcraft’s Chaga Chai

Steeped up, the chai still smells like a weapon of strong spice. The taste, however, is delightful! The chai smells stronger than it tastes.

The black tea is sweet and softly malty. The chaga adds an interesting nuttiness that I had to double check if there were nuts added. I can taste the lemongrass and orange, which lighten up this chai and give it a crisp finish. The spice level is heavy, and it is easy to pick out the cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, plus feel the pepper’s heat warming my mouth. I’d give this a moderately heavy spice level, enough to heat you up on a cold day, but not tripping pain receptors hot. Winterpeg (Winnipeg) Manitoba is notorious for having death winters, likely why this tea has a potent spice level and a crisp refreshing feel of winter.

The longer it infuses, the more savory the flavor gets, yet not bitter. Steeped for 25 minutes, it does go into spice overkill mode, so be sure to remove the leaf or top it up with more hot water unless you like painful spice levels.

Comments

If you love higher spiced chais without being hot or prefer a clean, non-milk chai – Boreal Wildcraft’s Chaga Chai is the bomb. Chaga Chai tastes clean and crisp, so likely you do not need milk.  I also found the devoid of bitterness makes this chai not need sugar. I enjoyed how clean and refreshing the chai is, mixed with the spice level and interesting chaga nuttiness with the smooth black tea base. The flavor is certainly unique compared to other chais, with a nod to wild harvested goodies from Canada.

I quite enjoyed this chai, I could see myself buying it for myself and my dad. My dad loves chai and would drink my stash on me. I love the contrast of spice and refreshing, the spice level, flexibility to steep awhile, and lack of bitterness.

(tea provided for review)

2015 Pretty Girls Shou Puer from White2Tea

I purchased White2Tea’s 2015 Pretty Girls shou puer at launch, and it got lost in the back of my pumidor, along with Brown Sugar and Red Shroom. This puer is one of their most expensive shous, clocking in $39 for 200 grams. I overheard that “Pretty Girls” is some sort of reference that flies right over my west coast head. However, the wrapper art of Pretty Girls has a nice robin on the front.

I was inspired to finally give this puer a try as my house is under siege by bird turf war since the spring. As with many Seattle area houses, I got lots of tall trees lining my house. The front of my house has a crow family. My deck has two robins nest that has hosted many babies. The jerks starting the war is the Stellar Jays.

Audubon.org

I’ve seen the Stellar Jays attacking the crows and the robins, but also stopping by my office window to say hi (in their crazy “song”) to inform me they bombed my car. The Stellar Jays also seem to like eating my roof, puking peanuts in my gutters, eating my fruit trees, and spitting the pits on my driveway. The biggest offender was I caught a Stellar Jay who broke into my kitchen and was eating my tortilla chips. I can never photo them as they are agile ninja turds, but at least their gang war is fun to watch a WWE style taunting of all the birds in the area. Though it is creepy when there is a Jay standing at my porch door looking like he would flick a toothpick at me.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

Wow, look at that gold in this cake! Very nice!

I used 1 gram of leaf to 15ml of vessel size, steeping with boiling water. I feel you can easily leaf more than this. The hot leaf smells like milk chocolate and caramel. First couple infusions are kind of cloudy.

Tasting of White2Tea’s 2015 Pretty Girls Shou Puer

First, Second, Third, and Fourth Infusion: The flavor of 2015 Pretty Girls Shou Puer is chestnut shells mixed with shiitake mushroom, with a hint of bittersweet chocolate. Pretty Girls dominate flavor is mushroom. The aftertaste is a smooth chocolate, contrasting the heavy earthy taste. The broth is on the thick side, with the flavor doing a great job coating the mouth in chocolate.

I noticed the silver teacup does wonders for any funky shous. I found the silver teacup cut through the mushroom and bringing out the sweeter flavors.

Fifth and Sixth Infusion: Pretty Girls is starting to clear the mushroom notes and lost the cloudy appearance. The flavor is getting sweeter with each infusion, as well as getting cleaner in taste. Right now it is getting more chocolate, mineral, and bright in flavor. There is some interesting depth with the strong profile of sweet over the earthy background.

Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Infusion: Pretty Girls shifted to sugary sweet, with flavors of mineral, chocolate, and background of earth. The body is slick and thick like melted chocolate. This tea is in addictive chug mode, and I can’t steep it fast enough to drink.

Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Infusion: Pretty Girls was consistently sweet but slipped fast in flavor.

I struggled to keep this tea going. I likely could have gotten more infusions with a thicker walled gaiwan or teapot, or leafed a bit harder.

Comments

The earlier the infusion, the more dirty White2Tea’s 2015 Pretty Girls is. With each infusion, Pretty Girls gets cleaner and sweeter. The body and longevity is pretty good as well. Pretty Girls is a solid, high-quality shou and if you love sweet and clean ripes you will enjoy it. Pretty Girls has an addictive, zoned out zombie chug quality, but you can also take your time to savor the body and flavor. New to shou tea drinkers might not like the ultra mushroom infusions, but in the later sessions, Pretty Girls would appeal to many drinkers. Though I am curious with time whether the mushroom would clear up.

I like 2015 Pretty Girls Shou puer, though I think I like White2Tea’s 2016 Trap Bird better…. but that is another review and likely some owl bias.

Bonus! The shou smear on the side of the gaiwan gave me a good chuckle.

2017 Baozhong Comparison from Floating Leaves Tea

Multiple Taiwanese tea sellers and farmers have told me this year is the year for good Baozhong. Today’s review is a comparison between Floating Leaves Tea‘s Farmers Choice and Competition Baozhong. One of Floating Leaves Tea’s popular oolong is the Farmer’s Choice Baozhong. Year after year, Farmer’s Choice Baozhong is a high body and reliable oolong, that is much cheaper than the Competition grade, which makes it a great buy. With killer Baozhongs this year, Competition Style Baozhong might give Farmer’s Choice a run for its money. To be honest, I find Baozhongs just too green for me, so I usually pass, but this year I was wowed and purchased both from Floating Leaves Tea to have some fun. Let’s roll!

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

Comparing them both, the Competition style has bigger and longer leaf. Smell wise, I really can’t tell the difference, but both smell fantastic, buttery, and floral.

Floating Leaves Tea tells you to boil your oolongs, including these super green Baozhongs. That said, I did around 1 gram of leaf to 16ml of vessel size, steeping with boiling water. I love being able to double gaiwan things, I find comparison tastings a lot of fun. Farmer’s Choice is on the left and Competition Style is on the right.

Steeped up, the Farmers Choice has a bit more brown in some of the leaf whereas Competition Style Baozhong smells a little more floral.

Tasting of 2017 Baozhongs from Floating Leaves Tea

First, Second, Third, and Fourth Infusion: Interestingly, the Farmer’s Choice is the darker tea.

Farmer’s Choice Baozhong is smooth, savory, thick and buttery. The sip is like melted butter, with the flavor smooth of buttered corn and husk. The aftertaste is a big shift from the sip, with a sweet floral note that is stronger than the tea. I always enjoyed how dense Farmer’s Choice body is it is like drinking a thick smoothie.

Competition Style Baozhong is also dense, thick, and buttery, however, the flavor is brighter, defined, but lacks the savory note. It is crisply floral and sweet, with also a sharp, harder hitting floral aftertaste. It leans closer to tulip bouquet, with fat juicy aloe notes. Competition teas, to me, always taste brighter. Competition Style Baozhong is also dense in body, but sharper – like a pungent crisp, freshly pressed juice.

Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion:

Farmer’s Choice Baozhong is starting to get bitter here. However, Farmers Choice is still creamy, buttery and leaning on the savory with heavy vegetal flavors. It kind of reminds me of Gai Lan with that sweet with bitter vegetal note. The aftertaste is starting to slip, but still a nice floral sweetness that lingers. I am finding starting at the sixth infusion that I am losing flavor and it is getting drier.

 

With these infusions, this is where I noticed Competition Style Baozhong is shining. It is still going strong with heavy, dense body that sinks into your gut when you drink. It is brightly crisp and floral that sings after each sip. I want to drink this one more slowly to enjoy all the flavors and feels. With each infusion, the flavor is getting more vegetal and savory, but the finish is still crisp and floral.

Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Infusion: I did long infusions here, around 10 to 20 minutes.

Farmer’s Choice Baozhong had very little flavor left, leaning more to herbal notes, and has dry feel in the mouth. I stopped at the eighth infusion as it completely died.

Competition Style Baozhong is still going. It is slightly astringent but interestingly heavy, vegetal sappy in flavor. It still is slick feeling and makes you float with the pretty floral aftertaste, which is a more vegetal this time around. The final infusion is clean, crisp aloe and sticky dryness, with all the floral gone.

Comments

I have had both Baozhong teas a number of times both separately, compared together, and of previous years. This particular session Farmer’s Choice sang to me and did better than other sessions with that dense buttery savory thick body. Generally, Floating leaves Tea’s Farmer’s Choice Baozhong is the pick for types who want a high body tea with depth, not necessarily a pretty bright floral baozhong. I really enjoyed the early infusions’ contrast of savory body and sweet floral finish.

Competition Style Baozhong especially shines with an excellent crisp floral flavor and impressive resteep power. I enjoyed the complex floral notes until the last couple infusions, where it got more savory, but yet not too astringent. Previous years I found Competition Style Baozhong are generally just as bright and floral, but crash and burns after 4 or 5 infusions into bitter overcooked sludge. It is meant to judged on bowl or taster set to be awesome, yet not for the long haul.

Both 2017 Baozhong teas are great, a lot of it boils down to personal preference of wanting more floral notes. Farmer’s Choice Baozhong is still reliable, but this year’s Competition Style Baozhong is the better bang for infusion power.

Either way, snag some 2017 Baozhong – it is good this year and don’t miss it.

New 3 Leaf Flavored Matchas

3 Leaf came out with new matcha flavors! I had 3 Leaf’s Peach and Coconut matcha last time, and they were great. 3 Leaf sent me some of their new flavors – Lavender, Lemonade, and Raspberry Matcha. I love flavored matchas once in awhile, they are usually best iced or with milk, and I love both for tired mornings or workouts.

2017 matcha 3 leaf - oolong owl (1)

I followed their instructions, which is close to my usual method anyways. 1 teaspoon of matcha is around 2-3 grams.

2017 matcha 3 leaf - oolong owl (2)

3 Leaf Lavender Matcha

This Lavender Matcha is the one I’m scared about. I do like lavender, but lavender has a high failure rate of being too much like soap. The matcha powder smells strongly lavender. Like, I have bath products not as strong.

2017 matcha 3 leaf - oolong owl (3)

I went with a milk base, so I whisked the matcha with water, then topped with milk in hopes of muting the lavender. I failed, this Lavender Matcha is heavy so it is like drinking soap and that is all I can taste. I’m not a fan, but if you love strong lavender you’ll enjoy this.

2017 matcha 3 leaf - oolong owl (4)

3 Leaf Lemonade Matcha

I decided Lemonade Matcha has to be iced. I decided to not be completely lazy, so I whisked it like normal, but then added a large volume of ice cubes to finish. For iced matcha, I usually just add matcha to water and ice in a shaker bottle, but the whisked way added nice presentation and foam.

2017 matcha 3 leaf - oolong owl (5)

As is, it is lemon tart and grassy, with lemon being the main flavor. I found best use is water this one down a bit more for a light matcha lemon water flavor so it isn’t overly tart. I tried adding agave syrup to cover the tartness and it tasted way too weird – imagine sugary lemonade and matcha, it just doesn’t work in my brain and it was a pour out. I could be convinced to purchase Lemonade Matcha for pre-workout or hot day iced matcha drinking.

3 Leaf Raspberry Matcha

My Raspberry Matcha froth on this one is sad, but that is more my fault as I used an electric whisk. I don’t like using bamboo whisks with flavored matchas as I don’t want to contaminate my whisk again – I had to clean my whisk thoroughly after the last two matchas as the smells lingered.

2017 matcha 3 leaf - oolong owl (6)

I made the Raspberry Matcha traditionally. It is not bad – it sips in tasting matcha – creamy grassy and fruity. The fruity note doesn’t taste too weird as I’ve tasted fruity in some matchas. The aftertaste is when you know something is amiss – which is of raspberries. The flavor is fairly natural as it is tart and even a little seedy.

I tried Raspberry matcha as a latte and it didn’t turn out well. The raspberry flavor is too delicate, so the milk and sugar overpowered it. That said, Raspberry Matcha is great traditional and likely iced.

(tea provided for review)

2012 Noble Mark Shou Puer from Mandala Tea

Everyone likely remembers their first. Way back when, and likely you can dig through this blog’s early posts, I bought my first puer cakes through Mandala Tea. Garret is super awesome and helped me out, and it is when I bought their 2012 Wild Monk Sheng puer. I quickly sunk further down the pu-hole and bought samples of all Mandala Tea’s house puer. Noble Mark is one of my first favorite shous that caused me to stock up to later. I didn’t even review this tea on Oolong Owl despite it being one of my favorites. I did review Special Dark, which is another OMG Epic tea (now long gone), Phatty Cake I & II, and Temple Stairs. Mandala Tea went on online hiatus but recently came back. Let’s do this – a long awaited review of Noble Mark. I even have a stack of Noble Mark in loose – the 2011 Noble Mark Ripe Puer Blend which is still available for purchase, but let’s drink the cake.

2012 noble mark mandala tea oolong owl (1)

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

By the way, this cake has been sitting in my storage since November 2013. It got a little banged up from moving, so there are some edges missing. It smells like my storage, which is strong earthy shou with a hint of funk… I should really let my shou air a bit more.

2012 noble mark mandala tea oolong owl (2)

I tend to feel nervous when I drink old favorites as I know my tastes and steeping style has changed. I am going in here heavier on the leaf – 1 gram of leaf to 12ml of vessel size, steeping a bit shorter with boiling water.

2012 noble mark mandala tea oolong owl (3)

Tasting of Mandala Tea’s 2012 Noble Mark Shou Puer

First, Second, and Third Infusion: Noble mark is sweet, super clean, and chestnutty. The flavor is bright and sharp, leaving a lingering sharp bittersweet nutty flavor after each sip. There is an interesting contrast between clean, sweet, yet that bittersweet hit that reminds me of murky coffee.

2012 noble mark mandala tea oolong owl (4)

Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion: I finally got a taste of the rich depth Noble Mark can do and how I remember it to be.  It is smooooooth, rich sweet cocoa, with the sip turning sweeter and sweeter as it goes on. It lost the bittersweet. The texture is slick and oily that I am worried it is taking my bitch to remove lipstick off.

2012 noble mark mandala tea oolong owl (5)

Something that I didn’t notice before, but I do now as after years of experience, is I pay better attention to body feel. The body feel is chill and grounding like I am sinking into a bean bag chair. I should be drinking this after dark with dessert. I personally tend to not go for sleeper energy teas, I like the maniac “get shit done” tea body feel. I am curious if this is a tea that I could drink later than usual and sleep. I know plenty who can drink shou before bed, but I generally find the caffeine or energy hit too strong, so I’ll be bouncing till 3am.

Seventh and Eighth Infusion: Screw it, I need a dessert with this tea and then I’m going to pass out. I have some eggy sponge cake that I got at the Korean bakery.

2012 noble mark mandala tea oolong owl (6)

I’m sure people will scream blasphemy, but dipping the sponge cake into the tea is awesome. This kind of cake is fluffy but very dense with fine bubbles – it just soaks up liquid without disintegrating. It also isn’t that sweet. Noble Mark is sweet and nutty and dark chocolate, it adds another dimension to the dense eggy cake.

2012 noble mark mandala tea oolong owl (7)

Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Infusion:

Noble Mark has slipped to ultra sweet and lighter – I had to do a 5-20 minute infusion to keep this one alive. It is brightly sweet and light, like wet yet malty rocks. It is easy to chug here, I am dozing off in between infusions despite it being 6pm.

2012 noble mark mandala tea oolong owl (8)

The steeped out leaf is quite chopped up and messy. The description of Noble Mark makes note of using smaller leaf.

2012 noble mark mandala tea oolong owl (9)

Comments

Noble Mark is a sweet and smooth puer that is well balanced. It has its rich thick moments but settles later on to light and sweet. It is a shou puer that you cannot go wrong getting, it is one that can win over a coffee drinker or anyone new to puer, but smooth and chill body feel enough to interest a more seasoned tea drinker. Noble Mark is the perfect tea to wind down after a long day or impress people to serve along with dessert.

I have no regrets getting this cake and stocking up. My only criticism is I found the cake on the dusty side – I had a lot of fine flecks of tea that made a mess on my tea table or dumping last of my cups. Likely a finer strainer would have been a good call here. I am not sure if it just my cake being beaten up over the years, but I don’t recall problems with the loose material.

Mandala Tea still has some 2011 Noble Mark Ripe Puer Blend material! Be sure to check out their other teas, they have some epic ones!

2017 Natural Redhead Black Tea Cake from White2tea

Woohoo, I finally got my claws on White2tea’s 2017 new teas! As much as you all want to hear about the new puer, or perhaps the new white cake, I will be starting off with the 2017 Natural Redhead Black tea cake. I did a big White2tea sample order and I decided to split half a sample of Natural Redhead with a friend. I haven’t been doing as much black tea over the summer, so I didn’t feel like buying a whole cake like I would have done in the past. Since I was doing a huge sample order that was expensive, I was in pruning mode and I almost left this tea out if I didn’t end up splitting it with a friend. By the way, Natural Redhead is one of the teas that has been EU 440 pesticide tested.

2017 natural redhead white2tea oolong owl (1)

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

The sample smells fruity, creamy, and a little cakey rum. I oddly think of a Christmas cake with the rum sauce poured on, but without the sugar tooth ache.

2017 natural redhead white2tea oolong owl (2)

I went a little heavy handed on the leaf for gongfu style, so 1 gram of leaf to 13ml of vessel capacity. I used boiling water, a single rinse, and quick infusions to start.

Tasting of White2Tea’s 2017 Natural Redhead Black Tea Cake

First Infusion: The hot leaf smells fruity and sweet, I could almost mistake this for a ruby black. The first infusion is soft, sweet, and quite fruity. The notes lean slightly into berry territory, but I am not sure what berry. There are a few creamy notes and the body is already heavy – the feel in the mouth and throat is like drinking rice porridge and getting punched in the diaphragm. I could be fooled that this is a underleafed Taiwanese ruby black. The colour here is gold.

2017 natural redhead white2tea oolong owl (4)

Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: The second infusion was stronger in flavor, still quite ruby like, but has an aftertaste that is malty and woodsy. Each infusion the malty woodsy and brisk notes are fighting the ruby fruity sweet ones to take over, but with each steeping, I still taste that ruby.

In a silver cup, Natural Redhead tastes brighter fruity and little of the woody malt notes. I am even more fooled here, this is a mellow assam varietal ruby black. In real life, Natural Redhead is that orange red, similar to an orange pekoe, but my camera kept making it look like kool-aid.

2017 natural redhead white2tea oolong owl (5)

With each infusion, Natural Redhead got more and red.

2017 natural redhead white2tea oolong owl (7)

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion: Natural Redhead’s colour hit overdrive of deep dark red.

2017 natural redhead white2tea oolong owl (8)

The flavors switched up, so now it is brisk, willow branch woodsy, and slightly orange. Some sips almost taste orange pekoe like – the good stuff with the long ridiculous acronyms, not the floor sweeping junk. The aftertaste is exploding fruity ruby. The flavor intensity is strong – like I should be drinking this tea in the morning or my dead time of 3 pm. A warning that likely I should have leafed a little less as these infusions will make more chest feathers sprout. However, there is the odd sip and aftertaste of ruby fruity. My mouth is feeling moderately astringent, so my cheeks feel gritty. The body on Natural Redhead black tea tanked to be on the thinner side, but I can certainly feel it kicking my stomach.

The leaves reached max capacity here, I have to jiggle the tea pot to get the lid on.

2017 natural redhead white2tea oolong owl (9)

Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Infusion: I steeped quite long here, 10-15 minutes, to get the flavor rolling strong. It is on the astringent side, but the flavor is bright and brisk. The 10th infusion Natural Redhead black tea totally died, but the aftertaste was a crazy orange, floral, clean, that produces a lot of salivation and travels in the different direction than the whole session. I would rate the 10th infusion as the best infusion as the aftertaste is completely nuts, that I tried for 11. After a 30 minute steeping, and keeping it hot with pouring hot water on the teapot, I got a final good infusion.

The leaves look pretty good with lots of buds and a little stem action.

2017 natural redhead white2tea oolong owl (10)

Grandpa style

I used 4.5 grams of leaf, steeped at 200F/93c. I dig Natural Redhead grandpa, though a lot of the complexity is gone. The flavor is rich, bittersweet, and malty, with a densely heavy body that has a nice sinking feel in the body. Natural Redhead didn’t get bitter or dry, nor too strong. It does do flavor packed, easy drinking grandpa style, but I keep thinking how awesome gongfu style was.

Comments

I quite enjoyed White2Tea’s 2017 Natural Redhead black tea. There was some interesting complexity with the shifts of flavors, and my brain was certainly stimulated by being confused that I was drinking a Taiwanese ruby at times. If you are a black tea lover, 2017 Natural Redhead is certainly unique and delicious, good to fill “I don’t know what black to drink… why not Natural Redhead as I get them all.” I think this is a great black tea for the moretypical tea drinker used to English blacks, but I honestly say it would be wasted on.  People who are big hong’oholic black tea drinkers would get this tea and the best application is gongfu style.

2017 natural redhead white2tea oolong owl (11)

I am not sure how 2017 Natural Redhead black tea will age. I keep meaning to revisit my Yunnan Sourcing 2013 Drunk on Red to see how that tea is doing. However, Natural Redhead is more than ready to drink now.

I told myself that I’d likely buy a cake of Natural Redhead with my next White2tea order, but I already failed and ordered expensive sheng instead. Maybe next time, once I’ve gone through all my samples.

Sunday Tea Hoots 33 – 5 things you might not know about me

There is a tea blogger challenge going around, that started with Tea For Me Please, which is to talk about stuff beyond tea. Occasionally in my tea reviews and other Sunday Tea Hoots, you’ll get snippets of my madness. Here are 5 things you might not know about me.

Hoarding Going Beyond Tea

Nail polish. I swatched them all recently and I hit close to 200. When I moved to California and Seattle, I purged over 40 bottles both times. I particularly love holo and I do my own gels.

sunday tea hoots 33 - 5 things (3)

Yarn. I got a lot of yarn. My other blog, Awkward Soul, is dedicated to crochet and yarn, though my energies have been focused with Oolong Owl. I collect more yarn than I have projects for. If I find anything fun that would make a good Tea Owl, I buy it. I got 2 huge totes of yarn, plus 2 overflowing totes. I also have another tote filled with undyed yarn. All my yarn isn’t close to organized at the moment, so no photos.

Fabric. This is a new one since I got a new sewing machine and started playing with quilting. OMG ALL THE OWL FABRIC.

sunday tea hoots 33 - 5 things (4)

Not to mention all the owl knick knacks I own. Hopefully, you’ll never see me on Hoarders.

Strange Career Path

Right out of high school, I went to animation school, then after worked various jobs in the industry like storyboarding, layout, character illustration, and flash animation. I didn’t like the animation world at all as it was very seasonal work, extremely competitive, with grueling overtime to meet deadlines for little pay. I then went back to school and did an undergrad in Psychology, then later got more specialized with Addictions Counselling, so I worked in mental health homes, concurrent mental health/addictions centers, and women’s shelters. Moving to the US killed this work, as it is paid peanuts here, so I feel the stress isn’t worth the pay.

So now I am just a writer. I do Oolong Owl and various other writing projects.

Hobbist Cook

I always loved cooking. I would watch my grandmother cook every day and I knew all her cooking secrets, which no one believed (the biggest secret was the jar of MSG in the back of the cupboard). My parents worked full-time jobs, so I was self-sufficient at a young age to cook for myself. I got really good at baking.  When I worked at women’s shelters, I was cooking for 50 women most shifts, on top of my other duties. A couple times I stepped in for our cook to do dinner for 97 clients.

I made all the desserts for my wedding. I regularly send my husband to work with pies, cookies, and cakes – which gives me an excuse to bake, eat a sample, and not eat the rest.

A post shared by Char (@oolongowl) on

I rarely go out to eat, maybe 2 or 3 times a month, and when I go out it is for things I cannot cook myself, food festivals, or I planned my day poorly.

sunday tea hoots 33 - 5 things (1)

Also related to above, I have a ton of spices and kitchen gadgets. I’ve had a sousvide for years, crazy sized BBQ smoker, and I also make my own sausages.

A post shared by Char (@oolongowl) on

I should do more tea food posts, but what my household is not good at is cleaning and my current kitchen is in dire need of remodeling.

Weight Lifter

When I moved to California, I got into Brazilian Jiujitsu. I started lifting weights to get stronger. I eventually quit BJJ and weight lifting became my main activity. I mostly focus on powerlifting, with dreams to try strong man, if I can get around to making/finding the equipment. My goal is to just lift as much weight as possible. I am also injury-tastic outside of weight lifting – I have benched myself for sore shoulders, knees, sprained ankles, broken toes and fingers – all done at BJJ, walking around the house like an idiot, or trying yoga.

Weight lifting is a part of why I like matcha, generally I don’t drink green teas, but matcha is a great preworkout due to the caffeine explosion.

A post shared by Char (@oolongowl) on

Endometriosis

I took a break back in November-December 2016 as I had surgery for never ending pain caused by a “cyst/ potential cancer” the size of a grapefruit, to find out it was severe Endometriosis, to the point of it attaching some organs together. It all made sense, as ever since I was in my late teens I’ve been in lots of pain, 3 days a month I could not leave the house as I was in too much pain or could pass out or even vomit. Many doctors didn’t take me seriously. Most were just failing to understand this isn’t normal or thinking I was exaggerating, one doctor even told me that I “should go clean my house, it’ll make me feel better.” After years of that garbage, I gave up and muddled through life taking max doses of Aleve routinely. It slowly got worse and worse, lasting longer and longer. I finally went to doctors last year when my pain started to not end, I was up to 2 months of intense, never ending cramps. Endometriosis was brought up twice, but both doctors figured I wasn’t in enough pain since I have been managing so long, and when they saw a huge growth on my ovary, they figured it was a cyst or cancer and it had to be removed.

There’s no cure for Endometriosis, it is just hormones to stall the growth plus regular surgeries to cut it out once the pain becomes too much again. In fact, they can completely gut me and there is still a decent chance I’ll still have Endo. It is quite annoying as Endometriosis is 1/10 women, but not talked about as it is squicky women’s pain, heck I feel like a rebel talking about it now. Getting a diagnosis is difficult, many similar to me, getting told by doctors for years we are just being hysterical and everything is normal. Not to mention, just about every women will get ovarian cysts, which can be horribly painful, yet not talked about.

Hope that was cool. Check out Tea For Me Please‘s post to see what other tea bloggers have said too.

Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot with Infuser Set

Glass teapots are loved by many as they can show off a tea and its beautiful appearance. There are many glass teapot out there, especially on Amazon. Today’s review is a quality western sized glass teapot sold over on Amazon – the Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (1)

 

Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot Specs

  • 1 Liter/ 1000ml/ 35oz size teapot
  • 4 double wall tea cups(SIZE)
  • Borosilicate glass
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Microwave safe
  • Electric or Gas stove top safe for kettle use
  • Large, fine mesh, removable stainless steel tea infuser

The Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot set is packaged well and safe. I had it shipped to my home and everything arrived in perfect condition, with the box design and wrapping to ensure a safe trip. I decided to keep the box, as this is likely the safest place to store the tea set when not in use.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (2)

Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot

Out of the box, you have 4 pieces – the glass teapot, tea filter, lid and a weird metal piece.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (3)

The metal piece snaps onto the glass teapot, which makes the pot hold the lid and infuser. You don’t need to have the infuser in to have the lid fit – which is a nice bonus as some tea pots of having issues with this.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (4)

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (5)

Both the filter and teapot have the brand etched on it.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (7)

Pros

Solid Construction – All the parts of the Kitchen Kite teapot fit seamlessly. Nothing is rattling or falling out while you pour. This good quality and design set this teapot apart from other glass ones. So many glass teapots I’ve tried have poorly fitted lids.

Nice clean pour – I love the pour of this teapot! It pours just where you aim it, with no fuss. The spout of designed well.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (11)

Awesome Infuser – The filter is well designed and fine mesh. There is a swing handle to pick it up. I have used this filter in other tea pots or mugs and it works great!

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (12)

Cons

2 handed pour full capacity – I found the Kitchen Kit Glass Teapot difficult to physically pour. This sadly comes with many glass tea pots this large – the thin handle in the back and weight makes the teapot tip forward. I also found the handle uncomfortable when there was this much weight involved. Rest assured, I am a pretty strong owl. But each use when the tea pot was full I needed a cloth to brace under the spout so I don’t drop it. Half or quarter full, I had no issues.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (13)

Other Considerations

Basket Infuser only – note there is no infuser coil behind the spout, nor any type of leaf resistance in the spout. If you want to not use the basket infuser to see the full leaf, you’ll be dropping leaves in the tea cups.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (6)

Stove Kettle – Yes, you can boil the Kitchen Kite glass teapot on your gas or electric stove! I was nervous, this was the first time I actually used a glass pot to stove boil. It worked! It did not explode!

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (15)

However, since it is glass, and glass has poor heat retention and is not a conductor, it took bloody forever to get this pot to a boil on my electric stove. I likely could have boiled 4 batches of hot water in my electric kettle. Then since it is awkward when heavy, it was dicey with oven mitts to drag it off the stove. If you intend to use this to heat hot water, you are doing it inefficiently with a glass teapot. Get a stainless steel or electric kettle – both, especially the latter, will boil water much faster.

Best stove use is to use with a single hot plate to keep your tea hot. You can also pop it in the microwave to reheat. No, do not boil water in the microwave for tea infusing.

Glass – So many things I don’t like about glass teapots, yet many people use them and push them despite these flaws. Glass is very fragile. Glass has bad heat retention. I always advise sticking to cooler teas, like green tea, if you are using glass teaware. The poor heat retention leaves hotter teas to steep up weaker in flavor. However, since this teapot works with stoves, pairing it with a hot plate or candle teapot warmer would work well to keep the temperature up and the tea at a hotter serving temperature.

Double Wall Glass Tea cups

The Kitchen Kite glass tea cups are pretty standard double wall glass. If you have any size of these, you’ll know how these cups are as they are.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (9)

The cups have a design etched to the bottom.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (10)

Pros

  • Cool to the touch and lip for easy handling.
  • Tea looks absolutely beautiful!

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (14)

Cons

  • Super fragile!
  • Fat bubbly lip.

I am personally not a fan of these cups, though I know plenty of people who do like them. I find the beauty of them does not make up for the awkward drinking. They are cool to the touch, but the fat lips make it easy to dribble, nor can you slurp. The same time, a thin lip makes the cup hot on the lips, so it is a no win. If you are drinking cooler teas like green, these cups are fine.

Comments

The overall design of the Kitchen Kite glass teapot is well put together. All the parts fit seamlessly and the pour is good – making for a quality teapot. The cons mostly boil down to the limitations of glass. However, if you looking for a high quality glass teapot, the Kitchen Kite one is very good. Best use would be the pair this tea pot with a hot plate or warmer, as well as a cute tea towel or hot pad – then you’ll be very happy with it.

kitchen kite glass tea pot amazon - oolong owl (8)

(teaware provided for review | Amazon affiliate links)